Ribault’s basketball comeback ran into a tough final minute.
The Trojans struggled at the start, came back late and then went cold at the finish with a 43-39 loss to Villages Charter in the Class 4A state semifinals at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland on Thursday morning. Ribault was cold early but found its stride after that before a rough finishing stretch cost it a spot in Saturday’s title game.
It was Ribault’s first trip to the state final four since 2017. The Trojans finished their season 25-5. The loss means that three area teams have now fallen in the state semifinal round. Both NFEI and Providence dropped their openers on Wednesday.
Only Ponte Vedra, which plays in the Class 6A semis later Thursday night, remains. No area team from News4JAX’s core coverage region — Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns — has won a state title since Bolles in 2016. Bradford won the Class 1A crown last year.
The Trojans trailed by as many as 13 in the opening half before chipping away at that deficit and tying things at 33-all on a basket by Caleb Williams early in the final quarter. The Buffalo stretched that lead back up to four before Kevin Stokes swiped an inbounds pass and turned that into an easy basket with 1:14 left to get Ribault within 37-35.
Ribault just couldn’t close the gap.
Down 41-39 with under a minute to play and with the ball, the Trojans were in perfect position to drain some clock and run their offense. But they saw that possession end on a turnover.
Villages Charter almost immediately gave it back after its own turnover to give Ribault new life. A Noah Kitchen shot from the wing bounced out and Villages grabbed the board. It hit a pair of free throws and then saw Ribault turn it over on the ensuing inbounds pass.
The Buffalo also snagged a big rebound after a free throw miss to all but seal the win.